Machine Intelligence Research Institute Progress Report, January 2012

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Past progress report: December 2011.

Here’s what the Machine Intelligence Research Institute did in January 2012:

  • Winter fundraiser: We continued raising funds in January, but we still have about $30,000 left to go in our winter fundraiser before the deadline of February 20th. Please support our recent efforts toward greater transparency, efficiency, and productivity by donating now!
  • Strategic discussions: In January we held a long and ongoing series of discussions concerning Machine Intelligence Research Institute strategy. Which scenarios are the most probable “desirable” futures for humanity, which ones can our species influence most significantly, and which ones should the Machine Intelligence Research Institute work to influence? Which tactical moves should the Machine Intelligence Research Institute make right now? How can our efforts best create synergies with other organizations focused on existential risks? These are complex questions, and in January, Machine Intelligence Research Institute staff members spent dozens of hours sharing their own evidence and arguments. (At one point, we also called upon the expertise of more than a dozen elite mathematicians in our circle.) These discussions continue today, and our opinions on strategy appear to be more unified than they were at the beginning of the month. But there is more evidence to gather and more strategic analysis to be done.
  • Ongoing long-term projects: Amy continued her preparations for Singularity Summit 2012. Michael Anissimov and others continued work on the Machine Intelligence Research Institute’s new website, which will feature loads of new content and a cleaner design. As part of our transparency efforts, Luke gave a second Q&A about the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, an interview at 80,000 Hours, and another interview at Singularity 1 on 1. Louie continued to work on improving our book-keeping and accounting practices. Anissimov finished thanking all donors who gave during 2011. (If you donated in 2011 and were not thanked, please contact!)
  • Articles: Luke and Anna continued writing “Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import,” and Carl continued working with Stuart Armstrong of FHI on “Arms Races and Intelligence Explosions.” Luke began adding non-English translations at Facing the Singularity, and published No God to Save Us and Value is Complex and Fragile there. Carl, with co-author Nick Bostrom, submitted a final version of “How Hard is Artificial Intelligence?” to the Journal of Consciousness Studies. For Less Wrong, Luke published What Curiosity Looks Like, Can the Chain Still Hold You?, Leveling Up in Rationality, and The Human’s Hidden Utility Function (Maybe); Anna published Urges vs. Goals. Eliezer continued work on his new Bayes Tutorial. Luke and Anna wrote a report on the workshops that followed Singularity Summit 2011, which should be published soon.
  • Rationality Group: Anna continued to lead the development of a new rationality education organization, temporarily called “Rationality Group.” Per our strategic plan, we will launch this new organization soon, so that the Machine Intelligence Research Institute can focus on its efforts on activities related to AI risk. In January we made one trial-hire for the new organization, and reached out to dozens of other potential team members. We also published a draft of one rationality lesson as a sample (PowerPoint slides + booklet PDFs).
  • New team members: Kevin Fischer of GK International joined our board of directors. We also added several new research associates: Paul Christiano, Tyrrell McAllister, János Kramar, and Mihaly Barasz (at Google Switzerland). Luke hired an executive assistant, Denise Simard. Michael Vassar officially left his role as President to work for his new company, Personalized Medicine.
  • Meetings with advisors, supporters, and potential researchers: As usual, various SI staff met or spoke with dozens of advisors, supporters, and collaborators about how to build the existential risk community, how to mitigate AI risk, how to improve the Machine Intelligence Research Institute’s effectiveness, and other topics. We also met with several potential researchers to gauge their interest and abilities.
  • Relaunched the Visiting Fellows program: In January we relaunched our Visiting Fellows program. Instead of hosting many visiting fellows at once, we will now host only 1-2 fellows at a time, for a limited duration unique to each visiting fellow. Our visiting fellow for the last week of January was Princeton philosophy undergraduate Jake Nebel. If you’re interested, please apply to our Visiting Fellows program here.
  • Much more: Launched a redesign of, continued work in the optimal philanthropy movement, continued work on our first annual report, and much more.

Finally, we’d like to recognize our most active volunteers in January 2012: Mitchell Owen, Brian Rabkin, Huon Wilson, David Althaus, Florent Berthet, Sergio Terrero, “Lightwave,” Emile Kroeger, and Giles Edkins. Thanks everyone! (And, our apologies if we forgot to name you!)

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